Thursday, 5 March 2015

Peace and Love

A large hot pink flower sits on the banks of the Thames at Pimlico.  The fibreglass flower is the work of artist Ana Azarev as part of her campaign titled Love and Peace.

Her ambitious project aims to install one of her large bright flowers in cities throughout the world.  She believes that art and beauty will convince nations to "foster mutual appreciation and hope".  Perhaps it is no accident that the offices of MI5 are directly across the river and the new American Embassy just up the road.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

French Tastes

Pain au chocolat clutched in his teeth, the squirrel scampered along the path and up the fence, never losing that fierce grip on his french snack.  I wondered where he has stashed his cappuccino?

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

A Really Old Tree

Believed to be over 300 years old this plane tree in Brunswick Square is equally interesting as it has been allowed to grow to its natural shape.  Most plane trees in cities are radically pruned each year and so never develop the graceful sweeping beaches of this one.

The garden square was next to the original foundling hospital and orphanage, an important feature for   its founders who insisted that the children have an area to play that gave them a sense of being in the country.  London during Victorian times was powered by coal and gas, a thick black fog hung over the city most of the time, not exactly a healthy environment for sickly children.  This area with no industry and open fields provided the nearest to the clean fresh countryside possible.

Monday, 2 March 2015

From the Window

Drenched in that last shower, jumped on a bus, can't see a thing.  Wipe the window, and there is an angel.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Ted limbers up for Easter

Ted .. if you’re going to eat all that chocolate at least you can eat something that has good ingredients, is good for the planet, and tastes good .. said The Doll.  Of course I knew this was a trick right away, and a thinly disguised attempt to disrupt my training schedule for my annual challenge on the Guinness Book of Records 4 day Easter chocolate consumption world record ... as surely there can be no such thing existing in the heavenly world of chocolate decadence!

But … apparently it’s true.  It is possible to get chocolate made from organic ingredients sourced from fairtrade growers who follow sustainable practices, which tastes good, and looks good as well. 

The Doll came home with a selection for me to try from Green & Blacks to prove her point. G&B started out 23 years ago in the Portobello Road flat of husband and wife team Craig Sams and Jo Fairley, and right from the start their focus was on ethically sourced chocolate.  Their first 70% dark chocolate offering in 1991 went down so well that today they have over 19 varieties in their range, as well as seasonal Easter eggs in several sizes and flavours (duck extra).

Their newest additions are called “Thin”.  It’s a new concept of a thinner bar with bigger individual pieces, designed to stimulate your senses, from the satisfying “snap” when you break it, to being able to put it on your tongue and have it melt in your mouth.  A chocolate connoisseur once taught me that if you chew chocolate rather than let it melt naturally in your mouth, it changes the flavour profile completely. You get a lot more of the volatile acids released in the chewing process and lose a lot of the real chocolate flavours as result (who knew).

The unspoken hint of “Thin” is of course that you eat less but get even more enjoyment  … see I told you I knew that The Doll had a trick in there somewhere …“Thin” comes in 4 kinds and The Doll got me the Salted Caramel and Milk Chocolate to try. The “snap” was indeed satisfying, and in fact I only stopped snapping when The Doll said to me “Ted what are you doing? .. it’s chocolate not bubble wrap!”… The flavours and textures I got from letting it melt in my mouth were equally satisfying.

Saturday, 28 February 2015

The Painter

Traffic whizzing by either side of him artist Nicholas Borden didn't seem to notice that his easel was set up on one of London's busiest roads.  Seeing an opportunity for an unusual photo, I joined him on the traffic island and we were soon chatting about his art and blogging.  

Renown blogger "Spitalfields Life" wrote an article about him which not only eloquently talks about him and his life but also resulted in the art world discovering him.  An exhibition is planned for later this year.  I will keep you posted.

Friday, 27 February 2015

The Gallery

Today we look at the gallery that is hosting the exhibition in yesterday's post.  This glorious building was built by William Waldorf Aster in 1892 to be used as his London offices.  The man whose family owned most of the property on Manhattan Island, spared no expense on his lavish London pad.

The stairwell pillars are solid ebony, the staircase is mahogany, the panels are English oak.  The three musketeers gaze down from the banisters, as do characters from several American novels.   Four intricate panels depict the scenes from Shakespearean plays.

In the main gallery light streams in through stunning stained glass windows. The panelled walls are of pencil cedar with a gilded freeze depicting portraits of characters from novels from history and fiction.  Gazing down from the rafters are carved figures from literature, including Robin Hood and Ivanhoe.  At one end of the long gallery is a marble fireplace.

The building has only had four owners mainly as it cannot be used as a residential property.  The current owner is the  Bulldog Trust that supports charitable activities through exhibitions and events as well as providing a venue for corporate and private events.

It is only open to the public during the hosting of exhibitions.  Twice the value for your visit!

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Cotton to Gold

Sturdy leather clogs worn by the workers of the cotton mills in the nineteenth-century Lancashire.  The iron soles could be heard clanking along the streets as they trudged to work in the morning and again on the weary walk home in the evening.

Cotton created extreme wealth for the owners of the textile mills.  With their new found cash these industrialists became collectors of extraordinary treasures.  Everything from paintings, coins, glass, books and whatever they looted from the graves of other civilisations.

Several collections form the industrial north west have been brought together in an exhibition "cotton to gold" showing at Two Temple Place.  Tiffany glass, Turner paintings, ancient gold coins, 13th century books, are just a few of the items in this incredible show.  One not to be missed.
On until 19th April.  

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Book Lovers Haven

Imagine a bookstore that feels like a room in your home.  Shelves filled with books by woman, about women and for women.  Imagine all those wonderful novels that were out of print now being available.  And while we are dreaming imagine that the books were really affordable and on the days we couldn't get to such a book store they arrived in the letter box beautifully wrapped.

I had to pinch myself to be certain this was not a mirage. Such a place really exists.  Persephone Books is really all of these things.

Founder and publisher Nicola Beauman, herself an author of note has taken a dream of not only saving women's literature from extinction, but has bucked the trend of most high street bookshops of doom and gloom, and closing doors.  Each year Nicola introduces more titles to the Persephone range and her growing clientele have the ongoing guarantee of a good read. 

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Monday, 23 February 2015

School for the Poor

How many shillings in a pound? Slates ready? Dictation will begin.  Unrecognisable to kids and teachers in the twenty-first century, however the Ragged Schools were life changing for poor children during the nineteenth century.

Education prior to this time was only for the children of the wealthy.  Poor children worked.  Realising the value of education, well intentioned law makers made education compulsory.  What they didn't do was make it free.  Hence for the very poor this simply meant they would now break the law.  Early philanthropists promoted and funded the idea of free education for these children. The Ragged Schools as they became known had grown to 200 by 1844.

Dr Barnado was one of the early philanthropists to offer free schooling to these children who not only couldn't afford the school fees but also couldn't afford to dress to the standard required by the schools.  His first school opened in 1867, in an old abandoned warehouse in one of the poorest parts of London, Tower Hamlets.   He recruited children promising the not only free education but a hot meal and warm premises.  This later extended to homes for children and continues to this day.

The Ragged School Museum offers a glimpse into schooling of the period.  You can even partake in a mock Victorian lesson.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Ted goes to No.10 …

Number 10 Downing street has long been the residence of the Prime Minister of the UK, the all important political head ... so clearly it wasn't that No.10 that I actually meant then was it!!!

I went to another No. 10 - and it was 10 Greek street .. a restaurant that has attracted plaudits from all who have dined there in the three years they have been open. It is a resolutely fresh, low key, friendly place, that serves up staggeringly good value fabulous food and drinks.

I had a prime seat at the counter which featured a zinc (I think) bar, my own personal all round carer, and a full on view of all of the kitchen … what I observed showed me exactly why this place is so great. The small team all worked in total unison, kitchen, and front of house. Everything ticked with an underlying and unspoken buzz of “let’s make the people happy”. The head chef Todd was even able to answer some of my inane questions mid service without burning himself .. admit it that is good!

Will, the manager sat down and talked to me about his eclectic wine list. Trust me, embrace his super list, throw away your old "I always drink blah" habits, and try something you haven't had before ... "it's really good and a great food match" will be the outcome!!

So to food .. would I start with Dorset crab, blood orange and fennel, or beetroot, burrata, walnuts and scurvy grass, or chicken brodo … a quick I can’t decide so time for the trademarked Ted selection process “eyes closed and point finger at the menu” gave me veal carpaccio, tuna mayonnaise, rocket and fried capers. A repeat of this clever selection method and I had the most delicious plate of Gloucester Old Spot pork, raisin puree, romanesco and pinenuts before me. Then I came up with a cunning new plan for desert … I chose a desert wine and asked the kitchen to select the desert to match it … welcome welcome welcome gorgeous Seville orange & poppy seed marmalade cake with mascarpone … bliss ...

10 Greek street is a "no booking" restaurant, and despite the bad publicity which this often engenders, I do get it for a place like this. Their survival depends on such small mark-ups and that means people walking in the door, and not cancelling even small bookings at the last minute. Will told me that the worst time for him, and the one that most tests his resolve of their policy, is when truly absolutely desperate men (young and old) ring the day before Valentine’s day and plead for a table …

Saturday, 21 February 2015

A Wee Bit Mediterranean

Funky bars, trendy apartments, art supplies, this is the new Kings Cross.  Soon google will move in.  Local prices are reflecting the changing face of this quarter of the city.

Friday, 20 February 2015

Dogs Rule

With  the SPCA just around the corner this dog can have as much attitude as he likes.

Thursday, 19 February 2015


Lit by the fading sun the demolition site is a place of beauty.  The staircase all that remains of the previous building.  Once all the rubble has been removed the developers will begin work on yet another hotel along the Ealing High Street. 
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